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River Restoration Benefits Fish & Anglers

River Restoration Benefits Fish & Anglers
Fish—and anglers—in the Kettle River watershed are the beneficiaries of a three-year project by the environment ministry, with funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, to restore natural flows in the river. In 2003 and 2009 there were fish kills due to low water levels, which reached historic lows during the 2009 drought, recalls environment ministry biologist Tara White, who has been heading up the project to improve the situation for the last few years. Fishery closures were put in place in the past, but efforts to improve conditions have allowed recreational fishing to re-open more recently. In fact, White says there was a six-fold increase in fish numbers after installation between 2007 and 2009 of 29 large, woody debris structures throughout the river, which provide deep water refuge for rainbow trout. Now, they’re building on that with this three-year Kettle River Streamflow Protection Plan funded by the HCTF. At issue are over-harvesting of fish, increased agricultural use and development in the valley and environmental damage such as removal of natural riparian cover and in-stream debris. The ministry has been working to improve the deteriorating condition on the Kettle River for the past two decades, while flows have declined at the critical late summer and early fall period when demand is highest from agricultural and domestic users. “This is the second year of this project, which has four main components,” White explains. First, a stock assessment is done, using snorkel gear to float in the river and count fish, then keeping data by age classes.This year fish were also tagged above the dorsal fin to refine those estimates of fish abundance. The work was done with the help of members of the Lonely Loon, Penticton and Castlegar Flyfishers clubs, and other local anglers, notes White. Second, flows and habitat are monitored using 11 stations on the Kettle, West Kettle and Granby Rivers. Changes in channel width, wetted width and flows are all measured and correlated to establish the relationship between streamflow, temperature and fish stocks. “We need to identify the thresholds where fish are adversely affected so we know when we need to close the fishery, and so we know the minimum flow requirements to prevent fish kills,” she explains. The third component is outreach and education, so she has been meeting with agricultural sectors such as the cattlemen, fruit growers and grape growers, as well as anglers and naturalists’ clubs and local government to talk about management issues and concerns. Fourth, a water use plan is underway which will include crop mapping so allocation and use is better understood, as well as information about fish and their needs and groundwater resources. White says it is gratifying to see some improvements happening. “The best part is to see the buy-in from stakeholders and volunteers. Working together, we can fix it,” she comments. “Once we lose those fish stocks we don’t know if we can ever get them back. Without HCTF funding and the club volunteers we wouldn’t have been able to embark on this project,” she adds. The HCTF exists because hunters, anglers, guides and trappers contribute money towards projects that maintain and enhance the health and biodiversity of this province’s fish and wildlife and their habitat—and toward education about those natural resources. Since 1981, it has contributed more than $130 million through surcharges on licences, with this funding administered by an independent foundation board of volunteers from around B.C.
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Why did the frog (try to) cross the road?

Why did the frog (try to) cross the road?
Although roads are vital transportation corridors for humans, they often have the opposite effect on wildlife, cutting off their normal routes to and from food and water or blocking their seasonal migrations.But, efforts are underway to connect amphibian habitats across roads without the carnage. With the help of funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program, coastal ecologist Barbara Beasley of the Association of Wetland Stewards for Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds, has been spearheading a project to create tunnels for safe passage under roads. She is hopeful that will reduce mortality among five species including the red-legged frog, which is listed as a species of concern.They have also identified northwestern salamanders, rough-skinned newts, western red-backed salamanders and Pacific chorus frogs. The test project is underway on Highway 4 south of a four-hectare wetland called Swan Lake near the Tofino-Ucluelet-Port Alberni junction, but she’s optimistic the results can be applied elsewhere in B.C. where amphibians are being killed crossing roads that have been built through their habitat. Swan Lake is an important breeding ground for red-legged frogs. It all started when she was doing amphibian inventories in the Clayoquot Sound area in her role as a biologist, and she discovered that a lot of animals were being killed on highways in the area. She began volunteering to find out where the worst carnage was happening, and found that hundreds were being killed annually, especially in the fall when they’re disbersing from the Swan Lake wetland, which is just 500 metres from the road. In the spring, other adults also move across the road. A peak crossing area was identified and work began, with the cooperation of the highways ministry, to construct an underpass system and fence barriers to guide amphibians through it. A mark and re-capture study has been part of the monitoring to judge how successful the tunnel has been, and Beasley says it show some frogs and salamanders move through the tunnel, but not as many as expected. That work is continuing to see if the numbers increase. The fences definitely reduce roadkill, she adds. Since amphibians use a variety of methods to guide their migration, including sunset, electromagnetic fields, celestial cues and olfaction, she had some concerns that the underground passage may block some of them out. However, over time, she’s confident that scent marks will help guide them through the passageway. The highways ministry is looking at two other potential sites on the east side of the island, which are hotspots for vehicle collisions. A population model is also being done to see what impact roadkill is having on the wetland’s population. “Traffic is bound to increase, so we need to plan for that future,” she commented.The project continues this year. Beasley has been keeping up a blog about the project, called SPLAT project amphibian tunnel, at splatfrogtunnel.blogspot.ca The HCTF exists because hunters, anglers, guides and trappers contribute money towards projects that maintain and enhance the health and biodiversity of this province’s fish and wildlife and their habitat—and toward education about those natural resources. Since 1981, they have contributed more than $130 million through surcharges on their annual licences, with this funding administered by an independent foundation board of volunteers from around B.C. However, anyone can contribute toward the HCTF and support projects like this one with their donations.
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New Report Released

New Report Released
HCTF has just released a new report on Investing in Conservation with Revenue from BC’s Special Wildlife Permits: you can download a full copy of the report here .
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HCTF & Citizen Science Helping Nature

HCTF & Citizen Science Helping Nature
Youngsters all over B.C. are watching butterflies this summer.They’re learning which plants the different species of butterflies prefer, and in the process, they’re learning about nature and the intricate web that ties plants, animals, birds, insects and aquatic creatures together. Their photographs of the colourful butterflies resting on the plants they are attracted to, will be sent in to UBC student Heather Kharouba, who is working on a PhD thesis investigating what butterflies in B.C. are feeding on. “It gets them noticing the world around them,” explains Kristine Webber, executive-director of the Young Naturalists’ Club of B.C., while helping in field research for a worthwhile scientific project. “It also gets them thinking about the career potential for conducting such investigations,” she adds. “I imagine the Butterfly Project will be popular. They’re elusive, colourful and fun,” she notes. It’s also an opportunity for youngsters to learn about the butterfly’s stages of life and metamorphosis, which can then be applied to some other insects and lead to questions about other natural cycles. The importance of some plants to particular life cycles of the butterfly gives youngsters an opportunity to learn how vital such links are in the world of nature, and why it’s important we don’t eradicate native plants on which insects or animals rely. Webber says they encourage all clubs in the province to get involved in such projects. “Citizen science is important for young naturalists, and it’s even more powerful if they know they’re helping a nature study,” she comments. There are 1,000 family members involved in YNC and 500 more in groups organized in schools around the province as part of the Nature Clubs in Schools program. Members range in age from five to 14 years of age. “The idea is for families to explore nature together,” Webber explains. YNC grew from the enthusiasm of an avid member of the Vancouver Natural History Society, Daphne Solecki, founder and current president of YNC. A decade later it had expanded to 30 groups in communities around B.C., and 25 in schools—all part of a network of volunteers supported by a very small program administration staff which provides the skeleton holding it all together. They look after such details as liability insurance, a website and a free quarterly magazine, called NatureWILD, featuring B.C. trees, plants and wildlife, pictures, puzzles, competitions, games, ideas for activities, happenings around the province, letters and drawings from members. In addition, they all receive action awards for activities that help the local environment. Activities include explorer days involving knowledgeable volunteer scientists, birders, rockhounds and others in the community who lead field trips for families to learn more about their natural environment. “Time spent in nature has incredible benefits in education as well as the science,” notes Webber. Approval of funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation this year was critical to the continued operation of the YNC, providing stability to the programs and allowing program staff to plan ahead, Webber says. The HCTF exists because hunters, anglers, guides and trappers contribute money towards projects that maintain and enhance the health and biodiversity of this province’s fish and wildlife and their habitat—and toward education about those natural resources. Since 1981, they have contributed more than $130 million through surcharges on their licences, with this funding administered by an independent foundation board of volunteers from around B.C. However, anyone can contribute toward the HCTF and support projects like the YNC with their donations. To learn more about the YNC program, go to that website at: www.ync.ca
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Dates to Remember

Dates to Remember
Thank you to everyone who submitted a proposal for 2012-13 projects by the November 2, 2012 deadline. We received a total of 188 proposals. Over the next three months the proposals will go through a technical review and an HCTF Board review. Final funding decisions will be made by the Board in early March – check back here at that time to see a preliminary list of approved projects. If you wish to submit an enhancement proposal, your next opportunity will be November 2, 2013. The one exception is the Burrard Inlet Restoration Pilot Program: the second intake proposal deadline for this program is June 30th, 2013. Further information on the application process will be posted on our website in the spring, or contact us for further details.
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